If you survived an underride collision with a large truck, you are lucky. Such a crash proves to have one of the most horrific outcomes after a car, SUV or pickup slides underneath the side of a big-rig truck – the ones so often seen on South Dakota roads. The top of the vehicle is often crushed or sheered off, leading to fatal or catastrophic head and spinal cord injuries from which someone may never fully recover.
For years, the families of victims killed in such collisions have lobbied federal lawmakers for improved safety requirements. And that includes having metal underride guards installed on the side of big-rig trucks. Their persistence led federal lawmakers in March to reintroduce legislation requiring the installation of metal guards on the front and side of newly built tractor-trailers.
Hundreds die each year
This marks the third time that federal lawmakers in Washington introduced the Stop Underrides Act. The latest version of the bill also would improve the safety standards on a large truck’s rear underride guards, which already are required by law.
Safety advocates concede that they made a major concession to get the bill reintroduced. This time around, only new large trucks must have underride guards installed on the sides and front. The proposed law does not apply to the millions of trucks already on U.S. roads.
Each year, underride collisions lead to the deaths of hundreds of drivers and their passengers. According to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an average of 219 people died in such collisions between 2008 and 2017. However, the GAO suspects such deaths remain underreported due to the different data collection systems of states and municipalities.
This proposed legislation could have a positive outcome, potentially leading to fewer such tragedies. Some survivors — many of whom suffer from permanent disabilities — know that underride guards may have made a big difference in their lives.